First up, Mashable takes a peek into the props shop at Pinewood Film Studios, the UK studio where the new Star Wars films are being made. They show the process for making some of the film’s iconic props, like Darth Vader’s melted helmet and Kylo Ren’s lightsaber hilt. The process is a bit more high-tech than your typical props shop.
Darin Kuehler, props master at the Omaha Community Playhouse, needed to make some animatronic dancing pigeons for their production of The Producers. Find out how he went from prototyping to final design.
Tony Nominee David Korins shares 10 secrets of the Hamilton set. He talks a bit about the props too, because really, what’s a set without props?
J. Kent decided he needed a life-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, so he built one out of paper-mache. Check out pictures of the five-foot long piece that took over 500 hours to build.
Make Magazine discovers David Neat and his amazing model-making blog. I’ve linked to many of his posts before, but if you haven’t seen this blog yet, you’re in for a treat. He covers a lot of the same materials and methods we use in props in exquisite detail.
David Neat starts us off with making smooth shapes from Styrofoam. He’s dealing with the real-deal Styrofoam here, not that white bead foam stuff. And sure, this article is over a year old, but it has some really useful techniques.
Bill Doran has a helpful video on adding rust to your props. Ninety percent of the time when I show a completed prop to a designer, they say, “that’s great… once we age it down a bit.” Knowing how to weather, age, distress or generally tone down props is an essential skill for a props person, and adding rust is one of the ways to do this.
Make Magazine takes a look at some Maker-Friendly hardware stores from around the US. It’s a fascinating look at the vast array of materials a store might choose to stock, as well as a sobering reminder of how awesome hardware stores used to be to those of us whose only local options are Lowes and Home Depot.
I covered some basic stitching for fabric in my Prop Building Guidebook, but if you get into embroidery and ornamental stitching, there is a whole other world of ways to manipulate needle and thread. Tipnut has some great vintage illustrations of ornamental borders and the basic stitches to make them happen. It’s a relaxing project for when you are bored in tech and the designer wants the napkins to be “fancier”.
Finally, here is an article called “The Most Important Lessons in Woodworking“. Robert Lang uses his experience cutting plugs as a lesson in woodworking in general, and I think this lesson can be expanded out to prop making in general. It’s not just about how to use specific tools or techniques, but how to approach your whole project in the most efficient and easiest manner possible.
David Neat, author of Model-Making: Materials and Methods, has a blog going with all sorts of model making techniques. Posts on painting, mold-making, working in scale, and more are described and shown with ample photographs.
I really like this illustrated chart of hand tools over at Popular Mechanics. The chart itself is good-looking enough to hang up in your shop, while the tools pictured on it give you a great idea of what your shop is missing.
Smooth-On has a ton of great videos over at their website showing how to mold and cast with many of their materials. If you haven’t checked them out yet, start with one of their newer ones on how to make a mold for a replica of an antique rifle.
If you ever wanted to take the time to make chain mail by hand (as opposed to just spray-painting some crocheted yarn), Make Projects has a great tutorial on just that.
I didn’t do a Friday link-o-rama, so here’s one for Monday. Hopefully I will be back to writing more better articles once we get out of tech for Bacchae.
- Flower Power – The McCarter Theatre has to clean the uncleanable. Read about their solution.
- Theatre on a Shoestring – A number of how-to articles on prop making, such as fake cigars, hefty chain, and sugar glass.
- Model-Making Techniques – David Neat discusses tips and techniques for making scene design models. A lot of this info is also great for prop making.
- Master of the Movie Prop – An interview with Kevin Hughes, the prop master for films such as Borat, Freddy Got Fingered and Boogie Nights.